The day may start, but mine doesn’t until I’ve had my first cup of coffee. My coffee roots run deep. My grandparents and parents were all heavy users. When I was really small, before Starbucks and Peets, I remember the can of Yuban that lived on our kitchen counter. My mom always prided herself on the ability to brew the best coffee, no matter what brand or blend (the secret is to use enough coffee—weak coffee is an abomination). Living in the Bay Area, though, we soon kicked Yuban to the curb when we became Peets Coffee early adopters and never looked back.
We have a family history of encouraging/pushing coffee, because it’s lonely being the sole coffee drinker in a household. I got hooked really young. By the time I was three, I was allowed coffee milk in the mornings, which made me feel grown up and sophisticated. And by thirteen, I was drinking coffee black every morning. To this day, when I grab coffee with a friend who needs milk and sugar and/or any other powdery substance offered by the café just to get the stuff down, I think, not a coffee drinker. Anyone who likes flavored coffee? Not a coffee drinker. Frappuccinos don’t count. Mochas don’t count. Pumpkin lattes don’t count.
When I moved to southern California for college, at the time a region without Peets readily available, my mom made sure she had a couple pounds shipped to my dorm every month, just so I wouldn’t have to experience withdrawals. Isn’t she the sweetest (enabler)? I’ll do the same for Virginia, who indulges in a coffee milk every now and then (please don’t call Child Protective Services). But her experience is different from mine. I—gasp—married someone who doesn’t drink coffee. Josh hates it. And after VA was born, and I could finally drink a fully caffeinated beverage again, I’d look down at my sweet baby and think, is this one going to be a coffee drinker? A true coffee drinker? Like, not one of those hazelnut fake coffee drinkers? One day when VA was about two and half, the three of us were at a mall to use their indoor playground during a sweltering summer day. I grabbed an iced coffee to sip while we watched VA tottering around on the foam mats. She saw me find my seat next to Josh, holding the drink and made a bee line. “Sip?” she asked. I looked at Josh. He shrugged. Maybe she’ll hate it, I thought. She’ll learn her lesson, and I won’t have to be the parent who stunts her child’s growth by supplying her with coffee through college. It’s like forcing a kid to smoke a pack of cigarettes to ward him off smoking for the rest of his life. I handed the drink over and she took a tentative sip, swallowed, and went back for more. She downed as much as she could before I wrestled it away from her greedy little toddler hands. In that moment, I knew she was going to carry the coffee torch from my side of the family. And if she’s anything like me when she gets older, you might keep your distance until she’s had her first cup of coffee in the morning.